Category: Devotion

This is a pastor notes/devotion category

Acts 10, June 12, 2017

Clean

Today’s scripture reading in our Acts Bible Reading Plan comes from Acts chapter 10. And I don’t want to give away too much since I’m preaching on this chapter of Acts in a couple weeks. But I’ll give you a little sneak peek.

Acts 10 has some amazing things going on. First of all, there’s a guy named Cornelius, who is a Gentile (a fancy word for not Jewish), but worships God.

And then there’s Peter, a disciple of Jesus, a Jew, and God gives him a crazy vision.

The Jewish people were not allowed to eat certain foods that were considered “unclean.” They weren’t really supposed to associate with Gentiles for that matter either because they too were considered “unclean.” And here in Acts 10 Peter receives a vision of unclean animals and is told “Get up, Peter! Kill and eat.” (Acts 10:13)

And of course, Peter replied, “Absolutely not Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
And here is where things get interesting. The voice speaking to Peter responds, “Never consider unclean what God has made pure.” God has just completely rocked Peter’s world. God has just changed everything Peter ever thought he knew about how the world works.

And so this vision has deeper meaning than just eating clean or unclean foods. Soon Peter is invited into the home of Cornelius, a Gentile; a place that Peter has always been taught is unclean. And now, this is his response, “God has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean.” Peter has realized that his vision about uncleanliness applies to people as well.
In Acts 10:34 Peter says, “I am really learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another.” (CEB)

As I read this story and these words today I am convicted about all the times I have judged others, thought others were “unclean” or less than me. But God is calling us to see all people the way he sees them. God is calling us to see all people as clean. What if we stopped seeing people as us and them? Just like Peter stopped seeing people as Jew or Gentile, clean or unclean. What if we saw people not as weird or different, but simply people? Let us remember that God does not show partiality to one group of people or another. Let us remember that the Good News of Jesus Christ is for all people. After all, without the blood of Jesus Christ we would all be unclean. But because of the cross we have been made clean.

June 1, 2017 Acts 1

Our Job

It’s June first and I hope you are taking this month to read through the book of Acts a second time and see what you missed the first time. Or just take the opportunity to read through it a first time if you missed out last month.

Today we’re reading Acts 1. What stood out to me the most when I read this chapter were verses 7-8. “Jesus replied, ‘It isn’t for you to know the time or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (CEB)

Jesus is responding to the question the disciples have just asked about when he is going to restore the kingdom of Israel. In a way Jesus is kind of answering, saying, “It’s none of your business.” However, I don’t think that Jesus is saying this in a mean way. Rather, Jesus is saying this is not something they should be worried about. Similar to how a child might be worrying about their parent’s finances and the parent has to remind the child, this is adult business, nothing you should be concerned or worried about.

Simply put it’s not our business, or it’s not our job to worry about the end of the world and when the Lord is going to restore everything. That’s God’s job. But then Jesus gives both the disciples and us instructions for what our job actually is.

Our job is to be the Lord’s witnesses in the world. Our job is not to worry about what God is going to do and when he is going to do it; our job is just to be His witnesses. We are to be people who testify to others about who Jesus Christ is and what he has done in the world.

Sometimes we try to cross the line and do God’s job though. Sometimes we get in the way and worry about the future. But let’s step back and trust in God that he will do his job and we don’t have to worry about things like when the end time will be. Let’s do our job and be witnesses in a world that desperately needs to know the truth of Jesus Christ. Let’s go out into all the world as witnesses and testify to the truth of Jesus Christ.

May 31, 2017 Acts 27&28

The End?

I just got back from vacation last night so I’ve kind of been on a hiatus from our daily devotion. Today we finish up the book of Acts with Acts 27 and 28. It’s kind of funny because these two chapters are about sailing and I’ve been on my own sailing trip the last week. So I can relate to the seas more than ever before as I read these two chapters.

But of these two chapters what stood out to me the most was the very last verse of Acts 28, which is the very last verse of the entire book of Acts. I don’t know about you but as I read the end of Acts I felt myself asking, “Is this it? Is this the end?” It’s like when you’ve been reading a great book and then you feel almost let down at the end. It seems unresolved, as if there is more action you are expecting to take place.

We’re simply told that Paul continued to live in rented quarters in Rome for two years, welcoming all people who came to see him and continuing to tell the good news of Jesus. Acts 28:31 says, “Unhindered and with complete confidence, he continued to preach God’s kingdom and to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (CEB)

Acts seems like it doesn’t have much of an ending because the story is just getting started. We are the ending, we have been called to continue Paul’s ministry to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to all people. As we read that Paul is unhindered and has complete confidence we must ask ourselves if we can say the same. Are we unhindered from preaching the gospel? Or do fears about what people will think of us hold us back? Do we have complete confidence in the good news of Jesus Christ or do we struggle with doubt?

Let’s be like Paul, let’s finish the story of the Church. Let’s be unhindered and have complete confidence in who Jesus Christ is. Let’s share the good news of the Kingdom with all people. Let’s be like Paul and teach all people about the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s finish the work that Paul began. The story is not finished yet anyways.

May 16, 2017 Acts 14

Only Human

Have you ever had just a really great day? A day where you really felt completely affirmed? Today I had that kind of day. I received a great evaluation, and great words of encouragement where I really felt my calling to pastoral ministry affirmed.

And then I came home and read Acts 14 and I had to laugh at God’s sense of humor. It was as if God was saying to me, “that’s great, but don’t get too big headed.”

In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas heal a man lame since birth. And the crowds that witness this healing are so amazed that they believe Paul and Barnabas are Greek Gods. They shout, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” (NIV) The crowds call Paul Hermes and Barnabas Zeus. The crowds even wanted to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas.

But instead of getting all puffed up and thinking, “look at us, aren’t we amazing?” Paul and Barnabas were quick to point the crowds to the one true God. They explained, “We too are only human, like you.” Only human. Paul and Barnabas didn’t need their identity to be affirmed by what the crowds thought of them, they knew that they were only human, that there was only God, and that He already came down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ.

Paul and Barnabas knew that everything great they would ever do in their life was only because they had been empowered by the Holy Spirit. They knew that they were only human. They knew that the glory should always go to God.

And as I read these words I am reminded that I too am only human. I am not special because of anything I have done. Anything good in me is there because of Jesus Christ. To Him belongs all the glory.

No matter how great of a day you are having, no matter how many accolades you receive from others; remember that you are still only human. Remember that every spiritual gift you have comes from God. When people sing your praises, point them not to yourself, but to the Lord. He is the only one worthy of our praise. The rest of us, we’re only human.

May 15, 2017 Acts 13

Listening for the Holy Spirit
In this chapter of Acts the Holy Spirit speaks in verse two and says, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (NIV) What stood out to me in particular was not that the Holy Spirit spoke to them, but what was going on when the Holy Spirit spoke. The beginning of verse two tells us that the Holy Spirit spoke “while they were worshipping the Lord and fasting.” (NIV)

Acts 13:2 is a reminder to me that the Lord shows up to speak especially when we are doing things that allow for us to be more in tune with Him; things such as worshipping and fasting. The Lord speaks when we give Him room to do so. I know that the Lord can show up and speak no matter what we are doing, but I believe that we can hear Him more when we give Him room to speak. When we silence the distractions in our life and engage in things that focus our heart on God; things like worship, fasting, prayer, and reading scripture, it is a lot easier to hear the Lord speak than when we aren’t actively seeking his presence.

Do you struggle with wanting the Lord to speak to you? Maybe you need to silence the distractions in your life. Maybe you need to set time apart to be with God. Try setting time apart to worship, fast, pray, and read scripture. He might still be silent. I’m not giving any promises, but He also might speak.

If we want to hear from God, we have to make time for Him. It’s hard to hear someone speaking when the volume of everything else going on in our life is turned up way too high. So silence the distractions, try some new spiritual disciplines, and see how the Holy Spirit shows up. See if He has something to say. And if He does SPEAK then act on it, step out in faith, and do what He tells you to do.

May 10, 2017 Acts 9

Transforming Power
Today’s chapter in Acts is about the conversion of Saul. Saul, the same guy who was responsible for the stoning of Stephen is turned into this man on fire for the Lord. We’re told that after his encounter with the Lord that “at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20)

Saul, this man who at one time is one of the head persecutors of Christians is now preaching the gospel. I’ve heard the story so many times and yet I am still so amazed by the transformation that took place in Saul’s life. What a testimony to how the Lord can take what seems impossible and make it possible.

This amazing transformation even baffled the Jewish people. They cannot believe that Saul is the same guy.

We should have the same transforming experience after we come to know the Lord. Now I know many of us weren’t out there persecuting Christians before we knew Jesus, but we should at least be changed. We should look different from how we looked before. People should be baffled when they see us because they can’t believe the change that they see in us. Our ways of thinking and acting should transform and we should look more and more like Jesus the longer we know Him.

What transformation does the Lord want to do in your life? Are you willing to be used by him? Are you willing to be changed?

This passage of scripture should also give us hope for all the people we know that desperately need an encounter with the Lord. If the Lord has the power to change Saul, surely he has the power to change your friends, your family, or even you. Trust in his transforming power. Keep praying for transformation to come. Remember, we have a God who is not fazed by impossibilities. We have a God who is at work in the world, using his power for transformation, and He can make the impossible possible.

May 9, 2017 Acts 8

Godly Grief

Sometimes we read scripture and the whole chapter has an overall message for us, other times the Holy Spirit whispers gently to us through one particular verse. For me, today was one of those one particular verse kind of days.

Today I officiated a funeral for a member of our church. It was a hard day to say the least. And then this afternoon I open up my Bible to read Acts 8 and the verse that jumps off the page at me is “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.” (Acts 8:2, NIV)

This verse comes in response to the death of Stephen, the first Christian Martyr in Acts chapter 7. And since today was a day of grief for me, it was this verse mentioning grief that spoke to my soul.

So often in Christian circles we think we must not cry when someone dies. We talk about our loved one being in heaven, we talk about celebrations, joy, and hope, and I think we forget that it’s okay to grieve. We forget that it’s ok to cry.

Now all that I’ve said is true, our loved one is in heaven, it’s a joyous celebration, and we do have hope in Jesus Christ. But we still grieve. It is okay as a Christian to grieve. Repeat. It is okay as a Christian to grieve. And this verse here in Acts reminds me of that.

These men are grieving over Stephen even though they know exactly where he is and that he is with Jesus. They have the hope of heaven, the hope of Jesus Christ, and yet they are still grieving. But the Bible doesn’t criticize them and say “Why are you crying, don’t you know Stephen is with Jesus?” No, instead, the scripture refers to them as godly men.

Grief can be godly. Grief can be faithful. We can mourn deeply for the people we have lost. Yes, as Christians we grieve differently because we are a people who grieve with hope, but we still grieve. If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one, know that it is ok to grieve, it’s even godly. Your grief doesn’t make you any less faithful, any less of a Christian. So mourn deeply for the ones you love. Experience grief. But do so with the hope of what is to come.

May 8, 2017 Acts 7

Stiff Necked People

There’s a lot going on in today’s chapter of Acts. This chapter is the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

The first 50 verses of this chapter is Stephen reminding the Sanhedrin of the history of Israel. I don’t think there’s really anything that the Jewish Leaders would disagree with in this section of Stephen’s speech.

But then in verse 51 the zinger comes. “You stiff necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised! You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

Stephen has just given the Jewish Leaders a history of Israel with the purpose of slapping them in the face and reminding them that they are just like their ancestors. Stephen has reminded the Jewish Leaders that they are still stiff necked people; something the Lord calls the Israelites a lot in the Old Testament. They are stiff necked, meaning they are still slow to bow their will to the will of God. They might look like they follow all the rules on the outside, but their hearts are still uncircumcised.

As we hear these words it can be easy to cheer on Stephen, to say, “You tell those Jewish Leaders,” but I think these words are sometimes words we in the church need to hear as well today. Have we become a stiff necked people? Are we slow to bow our will to the will of God? Are we slow to turn our hearts toward God? Do we look like the church on the outside, but inside our hearts are in need of transformation? Do we resist the Holy Spirit because He doesn’t always tell us what we want to hear?

If that is the case, forgive us Lord. Help us to repent and turn toward you.
After this, Stephen goes on to tell the Jewish Leaders that they killed the Righteous One and they don’t take too kindly to this and stone Stephen. But Stephen never falters. He keeps his eyes looking up, his eyes fixed on Jesus, and even echoes words similar to his Savior when he says, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

In this life we will face persecution for our beliefs. Will we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus even in the midst of persecution? Will we even pray forgiveness for the people who hurt us the most? Will we have the courage to speak out and tell even leaders in the Church when they are being a stiff necked people? I hope the answer is yes.

But remember there is no way we can do this on our own. It’s only when we trust in Jesus, lean into the power of the Holy Spirit, and keep our eyes fixed on heavenly things that we can have the courage to speak out even if it means we’ll be persecuted. So let’s keep looking up. Let’s keep trusting in Jesus. Let’s keep praying for the Holy Spirit to enable us to be the people He has called us to be.

More Devotions

May 4, 2017 Acts 4

BE BOLD!

Its day 4 of our Acts Bible Reading plan, and I’m definitely noticing a theme: BOLDNESS!
Acts 4 begins with Peter and John being confronted by the chief priests. The leaders at that time didn’t like that Peter and John were going around preaching about the resurrection of Jesus.

In our country we are not used to being confronted about our faith. We are not used to being persecuted for our faith. We live in a very different world from the early apostles. For the apostles, confrontation and persecution was an everyday part of life. It was not easy to be a Christian. For the most part, it’s easy to be a Christian here in the United States. Sure people might argue with us, or tell us that we’re not intelligent, but imprisonment and our lives aren’t threatened every time we tell someone about our faith. We don’t worship under the cover of darkness in secrecy, but are blessed to be able to worship freely on Sunday mornings.

And yet, the apostles were not afraid in the slightest. They were courageous. They were BOLD.

Peter and John were taken and put in prison for teaching about Jesus. As much as I’d like to say I would do that, I must confess that I’m not too sure that I would be willing to go to prison for my faith. I can be a wimp sometimes. I can be timid about sharing my faith.

But Peter and John were far from being wimps. They were BOLD in everything that they did.

When questioned by the council they responded (verse 19 &20), “It’s up to you to determine whether it’s right before God to obey you rather than God. As for us, we can’t stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (CEB) They can’t keep quiet about what Jesus has done. No matter how much they are threatened or persecuted, they aren’t going to shut up.

What boldness they have. You would not guess that this is the same Peter that denied Jesus three times in the gospels. Something has changed in Peter since the resurrection, he now BOLDLY proclaims Jesus of Nazareth to anyone who is willing to listen.

I hope that this change in Peter gives you hope. Hope if you are struggling with your lack of BOLDNESS. If the resurrection can transform Peter from a man who denies the Lord multiple times into a man who’ll go to prison for his faith, then what transformation might the Lord want to do in your life?

Let’s pray for BOLDNESS, that the Lord would change us from quiet wimpy Christians into people who will BOLDLY proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to anyone. Let’s not be scared of being confronted or persecuted for our faith, because we know that we have the power of the HOLY SPIRIT with us. Let’s be like Peter and John who unapologetically say they won’t shut up about Jesus. The apostles BOLDNESS changed the entire course of human history. The world was forever changed because of this news of Jesus Christ. Our task is to do the same. So let’s be BOLD and transform the world for Jesus Christ.

May 3, 2017 Acts 3

Give them Jesus

In this third chapter of Acts, Peter and John approach a lame beggar at the temple gates, but instead of giving him money, they offer him something very different. I love the words that Peter speaks to this man in verse 6, “Silver or gold, I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (NIV)

Although this event happened almost 2,000 years ago, this sounds like something familiar to all of us today. How often have we come across people asking for money just like this man at the temple gate? And some of us give money I’m sure. Or if you’re like me and never carry cash, you might apologize and just go right back on your merry way to whatever you were doing beforehand. But Peter and John have a different idea of how to handle the situation.

Peter tells the man that they don’t have silver or gold (I can relate) but what they do have they give to the man. They offer him Jesus, something so much better than silver or gold. And when they offer this man Jesus, the man is miraculously healed, and he is able to walk. After being healed, he can’t help but go around praising God for the healing he has experienced.

As followers of Jesus Christ we have something so much better to offer people than money. And yet, so often we think money is all that people need. So if we don’t have it, we just apologize, and walk away. But what if we took lead from Peter and John? What if we offered people something so much better than money? What if we offered people Jesus?

Now hear me out, I am not saying that we don’t need to feed, clothe, and care for people’s physical needs. Quite the opposite, we are clearly commanded in scripture to do so. But along with meeting people’s physical needs, we are called to meet people’s spiritual needs, to always offer them Jesus. When we think we have nothing to give, we must remember that we have the greatest something to give. We have Jesus.

And if we continue on in this chapter in Acts, we see the humility of Peter as well. In verse 12, Peter says, “Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we made this man walk?” Peter knows where his power to heal comes from. Its not from his own power, its through the power of Jesus Christ. Peter doesn’t want to take credit for what he’s done; he knows that all the credit belongs to Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I like getting credit, I like being recognized for what I have done right. But what if I stopped caring about my own recognition, receiving credit for a job well done, and I started giving Jesus all the credit? What if we all learned to remember that everything we are able to do is only because of Jesus? I think if we did this it would change our life. I think if we did this we would slowly start to be transformed into the people Jesus has called us to be.

So let’s work on being a people quick to offer others Jesus. When we wrongly think we have nothing to give, let’s remember Jesus. Let’s be quick to pray with people and be bold in proclaiming our faith to whomever we meet. Let’s work on meeting people’s spiritual needs along with their physical needs. And as we’re amazed at the miraculous things we will see happen when we do this, let’s stay humble. Let’s give Jesus the credit that’s due, and keep on offering Jesus to a lost and broken world in need of Him.